GM's sustainability report highlights conservation efforts

General Motors met many of its goals to reduce its environmental impact and carbon footprint by cutting landfill use, boosting recycling efforts and reduce water use, the automaker said last week in the first sustainability report it's released since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009.

More than 80 GM plants are landfill-free, while the automaker's factories recycle 92 percent of their waste. GM also highlighted its patents related to fuel cells and hybrid-electric vehicles and said it's made progress in its water-conservation programs. Additionally, GM is looking to cut its plants carbon footprint by 20 percent, cut water use by 15 percent and reduce total waste by 10 percent.

"Profits enable reinvestment," GM CEO Dan Akerson said in a statement. "In R&D to reimagine a car's DNA; in cleaner, more fuel-efficient technologies; in plants that better conserve resources; in improved vehicle safety; in job creation and stability; and in the communities in which we live and work."

GM's looking to highlight its environmental efforts as it attempts to reform its image as a more "green" car company with models such as the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in hybrid. The company in October said it would launch a battery-electric variant of its Chevy Spark subcompact car and may be working on a plug-in version of the Chevy Cruze.

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GM Releases First Sustainability Report as New Company

Automaker integrates sustainability into business model

DETROIT – General Motors has released its first global sustainability report as a new company, reinforcing its belief that sustainability goals are best achieved when integrated into its business model.

"Sustainability feeds our bottom line and sustaining a profitable business is our ultimate responsibility," said GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson. "Profits enable reinvestment – in R&D to reimagine a car's DNA; in cleaner, more fuel-efficient technologies; in plants that better conserve resources; in improved vehicle safety; in job creation and stability; and in the communities in which we live and work."

The report details sustainability progress in four sections:

Design: Leading in the research and development of advanced technologies to help reduce petroleum dependency, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Build: Maximizing the benefits of operating our facilities in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Sell: Offering sustainable vehicle choices for consumers around the world.

Reinvest: Ensuring the company's economic viability, being an employer of choice, and enhancing quality of life in its communities.

According to the report, what GM needs to grow its business is aligned with the needs of society – namely energy alternatives and advanced technologies that help reduce dependency on petroleum, improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, and bold thinking about personal mobility in the 21st century.

"GM's success depends in part on offering vehicles and services to solve these challenges while meeting customer needs," said Akerson. "The Chevrolet Volt is a great example. During a time when we were fighting for our life as a company and managing through a global economic downturn, we still managed to launch one of the most environmentally sound and transformational vehicles in history."

The report reinforces GM's commitment to an open and collaborative culture. It is committed to working with all stakeholders, from policymakers, like those in the United States with whom it achieved new fuel economy standards, to business partners, such as LG in South Korea, with whom it is pushing the envelope in electric vehicle development.

Sustainability highlights from around the world in 2010 and 2011 include:

Products recognized for advanced technology, fuel efficiency and overall sustainability-related aspects.

Surpassing its goal for half its global manufacturing operations to be landfill-free by the end of 2010 by recycling, reusing or converting to energy all wastes from daily operations. To date, 81 manufacturing facilities have earned the designation.

Recycling 92 percent of the waste generated by all of its worldwide facilities combined.

Repurposing oil-soaked booms used in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill into air deflectors for the Chevrolet Volt.

Mentoring 8.700 students in the United States on water quality and how everyday actions impact local watersheds.

Earning the title of 2010 clean-tech patent leader by the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index for fuel cells, hybrid electric vehicles, solar energy and advanced technology improvements.

Expanding its Greening Supply Chain Initiative to additional suppliers and joint ventures in China.

Progressing in water conservation, renewable energy use and wildlife habitat preservation around the globe.

"This company has come a long way in a short time, but we know it's just the beginning," said Akerson. "We need to, and will, do even better. This is the crux of the new GM: generating profitable growth that will allow us to improve what we make, how we make it and the communities where we make it."

In the report, GM also announces its commitment to the following new set of environmental stewardship goals during the next decade:

Reduce energy intensity from facilities by 20 percent.

Promote use of 125MW of renewable energy by 2020.

Reduce carbon intensity from facilities by 20 percent.

Reduce volatile organic compound emissions from assembly painting operations by 10 percent.

Protect water quality and reduce water intensity by 15 percent.

Reduce total waste from facilities by 10 percent.

Promote existing landfill-free facilities while working to achieve 100 landfill-free manufacturing sites and 25 non-manufacturing sites.

Promote and engage in community outreach on environmental and energy issues by completing one outreach activity per plant on an annual basis.

Secure Wildlife Habitat Certification (or equivalent) at each GM manufacturing site where feasible by 2020.


The report also includes a conversation with GM Vice President of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs Mike Robinson on automotive industry challenges, climate change, affordability of advanced technologies and the regulatory environment.


For more information on GM's environmental commitment, visit and its environmental blog.

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